Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov is tied for seventh in the NHL in blocked shots, despite missing 13 games due to injury this season. He’s scheduled to make a relatively low $3.2 million next season in the final year of his current deal. After that he would be an unrestricted free agent.

That’s why Ottawa Sun columnist Don Brennan says the Senators have to pursue a contract extension with the 27-year-old backliner sooner rather than later. Before the trade deadline, the Sens completed an extension with fellow defenseman Filip Kuba, whose numbers make him seem more valuable. But Volchenkov has continued to be a bright spot in an otherwise dismal season in Canada’s capital.

MK: If recent history has taught the Sens anything, it’s that “building from the goal out” has become a cliché because it’s also a formula for success. They started in that direction by trading for goaltender Pascal Leclaire. Now they have to wise up and keep quality defenseman around, unlike their history of letting Zdeno Chara, Tom Preissing, et al., walk away for nothing. I agree that making a long-term commitment to Volchenkov is a must.

Elsewhere around the division:

•The final 14 games of the season could be a conflicted span of time for supporters of the Sens.

•Toronto center Mikhail Grabovski has endured a roller-coaster season with the Leafs.

•Buffalo has struggled against the teams below it in the standings.